On Dec. 12, Richmond Jewish Day School hosted Cornerstone Christian Academy, Richmond Christian School and Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy. (photo from RJDS)
For the second year in a row, Richmond Jewish Day School hosted a holiday celebration at the school to promote community care, empathy and understanding.
On the morning of Dec. 12, the Shine a Light project saw three schools joining RJDS to share their winter traditions. The posting on RJDS’s Facebook page reads: “Cornerstone Christian Academy made 3-D stars to signify the star of Bethlehem, Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy made lanterns to represent light in Islam, Richmond Christian School made a stained-glass craft and talked about the advent season and, finally, our school taught the others how to play the dreidel game! We all have a role to play. Today, we dispel the darkness on antisemitism and hatred.”
“Last year, we did an evening event during Hanukkah called A Celebration of Light and invited members of the Highway to Heaven community,” RJDS principal Sabrina Bhojani told the JI.
The No. 5 Road area in Richmond, which is home to RJDS, is also home to some 20 different religious and/or cultural institutions, hence the moniker “Highway to Heaven.” Richmond Mayor Malcom Brodie and Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, were among the attendees last year – and this year – along with several city councilors and others.
“This year, we changed the name and format to create a more kid-friendly celebration, and invited various schools to attend,” said Bhojani. “Activities of the students included those that showcased their personal winter-themed traditions and included singing and arts and crafts.”
The Shine a Light program was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federations of North America, said Bhojani.
In addition to her land acknowledgement on Dec. 12, Bhojani said, “We also acknowledge the Elders, the keepers of traditional knowledge, wisdom and Indigenous ways of knowing. We have much to learn about resilience and responsibility. We commit to asking questions, being open to learning from others and acknowledging that that which we do not know.
“We also commit to make the community we share with you a more peaceful, loving and safe place through the First Peoples’ principles of learning.”
With regard to the day’s program, she said, it was “designed to help each of us develop our understanding and respect for one another’s faith and culture while growing in appreciation, understanding and commitment to our own faith traditions and their meanings. We hope that, through education and events like this one, we will collaboratively encourage people to work together, sharing the responsibility for addressing stereotyping, prejudice, racism, discrimination, antisemitism and social exclusion.”
She noted, “Today, as we gather together, we celebrate the unity and the unique religious coexistence of where we live. I hope you are reminded that is up to each and every one of us to be a ‘Shine a Light’ in the darkness of racism and discrimination.”
One parent who saw the event photos on Facebook wrote Bhojani an email. Having experienced antisemitism, they wrote: “What RJDS is teaching, its values, and [the] education the children are receiving, it’s world changing. It’s hope. It’s proof of a better future.”